Environmental Conservation Police on Patrol

Environmental Conservation Police on Patrol

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Division of Law Enforcement enforces the 71 chapters of New York State’s Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York. In 1880, the first eight Game Protectors proudly began serving to protect the natural resources and people of New York State. In 2023, the Division of Law Enforcement fielded more than 101,500 calls, resulting in Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Investigators across the state responding to more than 30,932 complaints and working on cases that resulted in nearly 16,900 tickets or arrests for violations ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the illegal pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

“Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Investigators serving in DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement are working tirelessly across the state to protect natural resources and public safety while holding poachers and polluters accountable,” DEC Interim Commissioner Sean Mahar said. “DEC looks forward to continuing to work with our local, State, and federal law enforcement partners to ensure compliance with New York’s stringent environmental conservation laws and promote the safe and responsible enjoyment of the outdoors.”

Month-Long Truck Detail – Fulton and Saratoga Counties
During the month of April, ECOs from Fulton and Saratoga counties teamed up with New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) Inspectors to conduct heavy-duty diesel truck details. ECOs and DOT Inspectors focused on emissions, leaks, and safety violations as they checked several trucks. Over the course of the month-long detail, Officers issued 77 tickets with several vehicles taken out of service by DOT for safety violations. Violations ranged from oil leaks to equipment safety violations and drivers operating uninspected and unregistered vehicles and trailers.

heavy-duty diesel truck on left and ECO truck on right of road

ECOs conduct inspections of heavy-duty diesel trucks in Fulton and Saratoga counties

Dumping Bust – Franklin County
On April 10, ECO Okonuk received a complaint about a large amount of garbage dumped on a landowner’s property off Kibbie Road in the town of Bombay. Officer Okonuk conducted an investigation into an individual who allegedly dumped the trash on the property. ECO Okonuk and a New York State Trooper met with the subject and the ECO ticketed him for the unlawful disposal of solid waste. The subject had an active warrant for unrelated charges and was taken into custody by State Police.

Pile of solid waste illegally dumped on a property

Solid waste illegally dumped on a property in Franklin County

Youth Hunter Safety and Turkey Hunts – Greene, Genesee, and Suffolk Counties
Youth hunters statewide recently received some important safety training to ensure they know the rules, regulations, and safety guidelines to hunt responsibly in New York.

  • On April 13, ECOs partnered with the Norton Hill Wildlife Club to host a youth turkey hunting safety day in Greene County. Lieutenant Glorioso and ECO Palmateer presented “shoot or don’t shoot” hunting scenarios to the young hunters to stress the importance of making clean, ethical, and legal shots. They also worked one-on-one with each hunter to pattern (test fire) shotguns safely. A few days later, on April 20, the youth hunters headed afield for the actual hunt with assistance from Lieutenant Glorioso and ECOs Smith and Palmateer. The 11 participating youth hunters and their parents/hunting mentors met back at the Norton Hill Wildlife Club in the town of Greenville after the hunt to share stories about the day and enjoy a barbecue.
  • For the second year, ECO Fuerch, Genesee County Deputy/Pembroke School Resource Officer Reeves, Genesee County 911 Dispatcher Fix, and science teacher Tim Stringham administered the New York State hunter safety course to Mr. Stringham’s science class at Pembroke High School in the village of Corfu. Over two weeks, 10 students successfully completed the course and are now able to purchase hunting licenses. This coordinated effort began last year when Mr. Stringham, who was in the process of becoming a certified hunter education instructor at the time, approached Deputy Reeves about providing the course at the school. The partnership proved invaluable in providing the hunter safety course to students who may otherwise not have been able to attend.
  • On the weekend of April 20, ECOs assisted with the Youth Conservation Program hosted by the Peconic River Sportsman’s Club in Manorville, Suffolk County. Young hunters took the New York State hunter safety course, learning hunter ethics and training, compass use, blood trailing, and how to field dress a deer. With ECO supervision, the students handled rifles and shotguns to familiarize themselves with the firearms. They also enjoyed a demonstration from K9 Cramer, a favorite Region 1 Officer.

The hands-on courses are part of New York State’s Youth Conservation Program, designed to introduce youth between the ages of 12 and 16 to the basic principles of conservation, hunter education, and general outdoorsmanship. DEC’s Hunter Education Program, the New York State Conservation Officers Association, and the Peconic River Sportsman’s Club have sponsored this regional hunter safety event since 1994. For more information or to register for the Youth Conservation Program in the future, contact your local DEC Hunter Education Office.

Young hunters at Norton Hill Wildlife Club after a youth turkey hunt

Young hunters at Norton Hill Wildlife Club after a youth turkey hunt in Greene County

ECO Fuerch and Deputy Reeves, Dispatcher Fix and Mr. Stringham, with hunter education graduates

ECO Fuerch and Deputy Reeves (far left), Dispatcher Fix and Mr. Stringham (far right), with hunter education graduates in Genesee County

Youth Conservation Program participants, volunteers, and ECOs attend a hunting safety weekend

Youth Conservation Program participants, volunteers, and ECOs attend a hunting safety weekend in Suffolk County

Owl Rescue – Suffolk County
On April 19, ECO Perkins responded to a nursing home in the town of Smithtown to investigate a report of an injured baby owl sitting on the ground. Officer Perkins arrived at the location and observed the great horned owl struggling to move and maintain its balance. The ECO contacted a local wildlife rehabilitator and secured the owl for transport as nightfall approached. The rehabilitator assessed the bird’s condition upon arrival and determined the owl’s leg was swollen, most likely due to falling from a nest in a nearby pine tree. The animal was sent for x-rays and treatment and, once healthy, will be released back into the wild.

ECO Perkins with injured owl

ECO Perkins with injured owl in Suffolk County

There May Be Chemicals in There – Suffolk County
On April 22, ECO Dickson, along with DEC Region 1 pesticide employees, conducted a pesticide enforcement detail in the township of Babylon, Suffolk County. Officer Dickson and staff inspected several landscaping and law maintenance businesses in the area to check compliance with DEC’s stringent regulations regarding the proper use of pesticides in New York State. Most of the businesses checked were in compliance, but ECO Dickson discovered eight were not. In addition to issuing tickets for violations, Officer Dickson took the time to educate violators on proper transportation and labeling of pesticide containers or sprayers, the importance of flagging and neighbor notification when applying pesticides, and instructions on bringing a business into compliance by applying for the appropriate certifications and registrations required to run a lawful pesticide business. All tickets from the detail were returnable to Suffolk First District Court.

Restricted Use Pesticide Sales – St. Lawrence County
On April 22, ECOs in St. Lawrence County conducted compliance checks focused on the sale of restricted use pesticides. The Officers inspected locations selling pesticides to determine whether they adhered to State laws and regulations, including neonicotinoid pesticides that have been classified as restricted use in New York State due to concerns about potential impacts on pollinators. Officers checked nine stores in the towns of Canton, Dekalb, Gouverneur, Massena, and Stockholm and found no violations.

Baby Bunny Rabbits – Cattaraugus County
On April 29, ECO Powers received a call from a concerned landowner in the town of Leon who claimed his dogs were sniffing around a nest with baby rabbits inside and no mother in sight. Officer Powers responded to the location, located the nest, and discovered five baby rabbits with their eyes barely open. The ECO carefully transported the rabbits to a volunteer with the Messinger Woods Wildlife Care and Education Center in Holland. Center volunteer Annie Widger suggested a method concerned residents can utilize to determine whether a nest of baby rabbits is abandoned: place a laundry basket over the nest during the day to keep predators out. At night, remove the basket and make an “X” with some string over the nest. If the string has not been disturbed the next morning, there is a good chance the mother is no longer able to care for the babies.

Person holding a box with young bunnies

Young bunnies transferred to the care of a wildlife rehabilitator in Cattaraugus County

Earth Week 2024 – Statewide
From trash cleanups to pharmaceutical collections, ECOs statewide participated in several events to commemorate Earth Week 2024:

  • On April 20, ECOs Machnica and Damrath kicked off Earth Week by joining the Erie County Trappers Association for the “Adopt-A-Highway” event in Concord. Volunteers of all ages braved high winds along a two-mile stretch of NY-39, filled 20 trash bags, and removed four illegally discarded waste tires. The event highlights the wide-ranging environmental stewardship of New York’s hunters, anglers, and trappers.
  • On April 22, ECOs in DEC Region 7 conducted dry cleaner compliance details in Broome, Tompkins, and Tioga counties. Dry cleaning facilities are required to adhere to regulations in accordance with the Clean Air Act, including proper certification, vapor barriers, leakage protocols, and maintaining a clean and orderly facility. Officers issued several written warnings for minor lapses in record keeping. Overall, most dry cleaners checked were in compliance and operating in a safe and environmentally friendly manner.
  • On April 22, Lieutenant Mathis met with Cub Scout Pack 514 of East Aurora in Erie County and explained the role of ECOs in protecting the fish, wildlife, and natural resources of New York State. He also educated the youth on the work being done statewide to stop the illegal trade of endangered species. During the Officer’s visit, the scouts had the opportunity to handle elephant ivory, sperm whale teeth, and products made from sea turtles seized by ECOs.
  • To commemorate Earth Day in Washington County, ECOs teamed up with the Washington County Youth Bureau and Alternative Sentencing to clean up popular fishing areas along the Champlain and Old Barge canals. Due to easy access, these areas are busy during the summer months and, unfortunately, a popular dumping ground. In total, the crew collected 25 bags of trash, 19 used tires, mattresses, several air conditioning units, TVs, small appliances, furniture, and a large pile of construction debris.
  • On April 24 and 26, ECOs in Greene and Delaware counties conducted compliance checks of 11 facilities that currently have active State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permits issued by DEC. ECOs inspected and evaluated onsite wastewater systems and their discharge points. Three of the 11 facilities were found to have numerous violations including: failure to operate in accordance with a SPDES permit; failure to complete discharge monitoring reports; failure to complete monthly and annual operating reports; failure to retain sampling records for five years; failure to install and maintain outfall signage; failure to maintain systems as required; causing or contributing to a water quality standard violations; and unlawful discharge of wastewater at a permitted facility. ECOs are working with DEC’s Division of Water to address all issues discovered during these inspections.
  • On April 27, ECOs in Oneida County participated in an Earth Week initiative that included a pharmaceutical collection event at the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority (OHSWA) in Utica. The event was attended by State Senator Griffo and included an appearance from Binny, OHSWA’s new mascot. The event was so well attended that three ECO police trucks were required to transport all the disposed pharmaceuticals from the collection site to an incinerator in Oswego County.
  • In the week leading up to Earth Day, ECOs in Jefferson and Lewis counties conducted inspections of registered repair facilities for compliance of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL).  Automotive repair facilities are subject to several requirements under the ECL to keep potential environmental hazards associated with vehicle maintenance from causing pollution. Requirements in the law also provide a place for the public to properly dispose of hazardous materials produced from automotive maintenance performed at home. Officers inspected 25 repair shops and documented several violations, including failure to register bulk waste oil tank, failure to label waste oil tank, failure to post sign for the acceptance of waste oil/used lead acid batteries, and for the illegal storage of lead acid batteries. Twenty-three Administrative Appearance tickets were issued along with 26 written warnings. The repair facilities cited are bringing their shops into compliance with the regulations and are subject to reinspection at a future date.
ECO Damrath with some of the trash collected by ECOs and volunteers

ECO Damrath with some of the trash collected by ECOs and volunteers in Erie County

ECOs McCormick and Wilson speak with the operator of a dry-cleaning business during muti-county compliance checks

ECOs McCormick and Wilson speak with the operator of a dry-cleaning business during multi-county compliance checks during Earth Week

Lt. Mathis shows scouts pieces of illegal ivory seized by ECOs

Lt. Mathis shows scouts pieces of illegal ivory seized by ECOs in Erie County

ECO Dewey removes an illegally dumped tire

ECO Dewey removes an illegally dumped tire during “Clean up with a Conservation Officer Day” in Washington County

Lt. Glorioso and ECO Smith assess wastewater outflow discharge point during SPDES compliance checks

Lt. Glorioso and ECO Smith assess wastewater outflow discharge point during SPDES compliance checks during Earth Week

CO Lakeman with mascot Binny at OHSWA pharmaceutical event

ECO Lakeman with mascot Binny at OHSWA pharmaceutical event in Oneida County

To contact an ECO to report an environmental crime or to report an incident, call 1-844-DEC-ECOS for 24-hour dispatch or email (for non-urgent violations).

Author: Harlem Valley News